Angelina Jolie, Takamasa Ishihara

David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images, AP Photo/MTI, Bea Kallos

Angelina Jolie has proven time and again with both her acting and directorial efforts that she's not afraid of tackling super-intense subjects, many of them quite personal to her.

And it sounds as though Unbroken, adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's biography of Olympian turned World War II POW turned inspiration-for-all Louis Zamperini, isn't going to pull any punches. In fact, this could be her most graphic and disturbingly realistic film yet.

Japanese pop star Miyavi, whom Jolie cast as a vicious sergeant named Matsuhiro Watanabe in the prisoner-of-war camp where Zamperini spent nearly two years after surviving 47 days at sea following a fighter-jet crash, told Vanity Fair for its December 2014 cover story about Jolie that she encouraged him to really plumb the depths of his character and get into the mindset of a man for whom violence was an everyday thing.

Angelina Jolie, Vanity Fair

Mario Testino exclusively for Vanity Fair

Miyavi said that one scene in particular, in which he brutally beats Zamperini (played by Jack O'Connell in the film), was so intense it made him throw up.

"It was awful torture for me to hate the other actors—I had to have hatred for them," recalled the 33-year-old rocker and record producer, who's making his feature acting debut in Jolie's film. "When I had to beat them, I had to think about protecting my family. At the same time, I didn't want to be just a bad guy. I wanted to put humanity in this role. [Matsuhiro] was both crazy and sadistic, but also weak and traumatized."

Well, if Jolie was looking for an actor who would give his blood, sweat and tears to the role, she found one.

"It's a story that is still painful for my country," Miyavi, whose real name is Takamasa Ishihara, added. "But she told me she wanted to make a bridge between all countries that had conflict. She was very persuasive." And after filming some of the more violent scenes, "I couldn't stop crying," he admitted.


Universal Pictures

Understandably, the film is extremely close to Jolie's heart, considering her humanitarian efforts on behalf of refugees displaced by war and its aftermath all over the world and the fact that she became very close with Zamperini before his death at the age of 97 in July.

"I was more emotional than he was," Jolie told VF about screening an early cut of the film for Zamperini before he died. "I went in to take care of him—and he was taking care of me."

"It was an extremely moving experience, to watch someone watching their own life," she added. "Someone so physically strong...and they are at the stage where their body is giving up."

Angelina Jolie, Louis Zamperini, Unbroken

Universal Pictures

But it certainly sounds as though Jolie—with the help of her hand-picked cast—did her all to honor Zamperini's life.

And speaking of tough, uncomfortable subjects, Jolie has since turned her discerning eye to the life of a couple navigating marital issues in the period indie drama By the Sea—which she wrote, is directing and is co-starring in with new husband and longtime love Brad Pitt.

"A few friends asked if we were crazy," she told VF, [starring in a film about] a married couple going through some difficulties...and I'm directing him."

Somehow we think their partnership will remain unbroken.

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